In 1954 the QEW looked a lot different


Published February 24, 2023 at 4:31 pm

As hard as it is to imagine, this is what the QEW at St. Catharines looked like in 1954. Where's the traffic?

As tough as it is to imagine these days, this is what the QEW in St. Catharines at Henley Bridge over the Twelve Mile Creek looked like in 1954.

That exact same stretch now carries eight lanes of traffic, as opposed to four, and still there are a regular traffic snarls along this stretch.

While we couldn’t find car ownership statistics for 1954, it’s a safe bet the traffic was so light because the country’s population was just 15 million that year, compared to 38 million now.

At that time, two car households were only for the very wealthy while at least two cars is mandatory for households these day.

The original postcard of the above Henley Bridge photo misspelled the city as “St. Catherine.”

But this particular section of the QEW – the Henley Bridge – was built in the late 1930s and officially opened on August 23, 1940. A sizeable (at that time) crowd of 2,000 attended the official opening of the bridge

In fact, it was opened by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother or King Charles’ grandmother) during a Royal Visit on June 7, 1939, before the bridge was completed.

At this point, this stretch of highway from Toronto to Niagara Falls was called “The Middle Road.” After Queen Elizabeth opened this St. Catharines’ portion, the entire highway was renamed the Queen Elizabeth Way or as we mostly call it now, the QEW.

A photo of the Henley Bridge taken (we suspect) sometimes in the early 1970s. It would be easier to pinpoint if there were some cars in the photo.

As originally designed, the bridge carried two lanes of traffic in each direction. The bridge has since been expanded several times.

In 1989-90, new concrete arches were made in an expansion to six lanes. The highway was expanded again in 2007 and now carries a total of four lanes in each direction.

The original monument and pier decorations honouring that 1939 Royal Visit remain, but the rest of the bridge has been extensively rebuilt. In fact, it’s now two separate roadways, rather than one two-way road split by a grassy medium.

The Henley Bridge is now two separate roadways – one in each direction – with the original monuments paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth I (the Queen Mother) still intact from the 1940s. The lampposts on the QEW all played tribute to the Queen with the initials “ER”.

Here is a quick 12-second video of driving across the Henley Bridge from the 1960s. A keen eye will notice the “ER” in the lampposts on the side of the highway. That was Latin – Elizabeth Regina – or in English, Queen Elizabeth.

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